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  • Posted by: Michael Mitchell on Tuesday, July 8 2014 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

    Michael Mitchell joined Interbrand’s Verbal Identity team in New York as a Creative Writer 4 years ago. His daily work with the Verbal team included a blend of copywriting, strategic messaging, tagline development, name generation, and more. Upon learning that he could take these skills and apply them internationally, he joined our global mobility program. Below, Michael answers a few questions about the program and his adopted city, Singapore.

    What initially led you to want to transfer to Singapore? What were you hoping to take away from the experience? 

    I wanted international business experience and cultural immersion. Interbrand has 30+ offices, so it seemed there would be plenty of opportunity to work abroad. As an English-speaking Verbal Identity consultant, I knew I would have to transfer to a market that worked primarily in my native language. In that regard, the Singapore office was an option. I'd already met two members of the Singapore team while at Interbrand Academy in Korea, so it felt perfect.  

     IB Singapore 

    Has anything been surprising to you about your new city?

    Singapore is on the equator, and it’s very hot—every day. So, the joke is that Singapore has the world’s best air conditioning, and it’s true! Every building you step into is ice cold. It’s impressive, and slightly scary.   

    What advice would you give to others who are interested in global mobility? 

    Do it. As I got on the Singapore Airlines flight leaving New York, I was unsure, intimtidated and frightened—and that’s how I knew I’d made the right decision. The business opportunity and cultural immersion has allowed me to grow, learn, and push myself in ways I never thought possible. Anyone who takes advantage of global mobility opportunities at Interbrand is bound to have an incredible, life-changing experience.  

    Singapore streets

    What do you like best about your new city? 

    Singapore is a sparkling melting pot. It’s modern and lush, with a wonderfully diverse population. And with all that human diversity comes an amazing variety of food—this is a playground for foodies!   

    What specific projects have you been able to work on? 

    The Singapore office services the entire Southeast Asia region. As a result, I’ve been able to do work for clients from Thailand, Indonesia, Brunnei, and Malaysia, as well as for Northern Asia brands from Japan, South Korea, and China. I was fortunate to be part projects in Sydney, Australia as well. The work has ranged from brand voice and messaging to tagline development and naming work. I also published a Verbal Identity article in a regional marketing magazine!   

    Singapore city view

    What is most valuable idea you have discovered thus far? 

    We’re all a lot more similar than we are different. I believe in market analysis, audience segmentation, and big data—but being immersed here has made me realize that, while cultures differ, people are people at the end of the day. The most successful brands know that. Brands that can tap into universal human themes and sentiment can thrive globally.   

    Singapore team     

    Michael Mitchell is a Creative Writer and Verbal Identity consultant working at Interbrand’s Singapore office. 

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  • Posted by: Paola Norambuena on Wednesday, June 18 2014 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

    Amazon Fire Phone

    It started with Kindle, a metaphor that the e-reader’s namers felt stood for “reading and intellectual excitement.” For many, however, that association was lost behind images of books as kindling or book burnings. Comparatively, its later competitor from Barnes and Noble, the Nook, captured that lovely feeling of curling up with a great book.

    But, over six years and many devices later, the name Kindle has become synonymous with e-readers and spawned a nomenclature we now recognize, use, and trust from Amazon: Kindle, Kindle Fire, FireTV.

    It proves that naming is a fascinating art—you can find negative associations for almost any name, associations that brands like Amazon can easily overcome (much like Apple swiftly recovered from all the feminine hygiene product jokes at the launch of the iPad) because a great name can’t fix a bad product, but a great product can fix a bad name.

    And so, today we see the launch of Amazon’s newest device, and its first smartphone: the Fire Phone. Not deviating far from its device naming strategy, the Fire features Firefly technology, a handy little way for Amazon to turn your new phone into what’s essentially a mobile retail device.

    It’s hard to imagine a phone named Fire if we had not lived and loved Kindle—and Amazon—for so many years (once many of us got past what it meant for the feel and smell of now-old-fashioned paper books). The more we related to, used, and received from the device and its associated services, the more the real meaning of the word slipped away and only the experience settled in our minds.

    So, are we ready for a Fire phone with Firefly? From a naming perspective, it seems so—we gave Amazon that permission a while ago. What really remains to be seen is how great the device really is, and how Amazon will fare in a market where others, including Facebook, have failed. If it’s intended to compete with the lifestyle aspects of Apple and Samsung, there may be a way to go. But if it’s simply another seamless way to connect us with Amazon’s core services, then snap and shop away.

    —Paola Norambuena is Executive Director of Verbal Identity, North America. Follow her on Twitter: @panoram

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  • Posted by: Eden White on Friday, May 9 2014 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

    HP Helion logo

    This week, the Hewlett Packard Company launched its broad cloud computing initiative under the new name, HP Helion. The company has pledged $1 billion over the next two years to deliver new open source products and platforms that will incorporate existing HP cloud offerings, new OpenStack technology-based products, and professional support services—under one unified portfolio. 

    Interbrand and HP have partnered together for over two years, working on projects that span from naming to portfolio architecture and design. Since HP was making a strategic bet on an offering in a crowded space, they needed to launch it with a name that would catapult them into the spotlight and position them to lead the category. Working together, Interbrand and HP determined the optimal approach and a name that would have impact. 

    Across the category, “the cloud” is a nebulous, complex offering that can seem cryptic to those outside the tech world—and the frequent use of the word “cloud” in relation to this technology only adds to the confusion. HP, taking a different approach, opted to create an ownable name that would tell a story for the future. Considering the competitors in the category, from the more abstract Windows Azure to the functional and descriptive Amazon Web Services, HP faced an opportunity to differentiate by creating a name that communicates its value in a unique way.    

    Helion brings HP's offering to life and positions the offering as not only different, but also formidable. With its similarities to the word helium—evoking lightness and associated with science—the name feels tied to the cloud space, but avoids overused, traditional cloud language. What’s more, helion is a real word grounded in chemistry, which refers to the naked nucleus of helium, “a double positively charged helium ion.” A name that conjures up mighty things—like the Greek god of the Sun, Helios, the Big Bang, nuclear fusion, and quantum mechanics—Helion suggests a powerful engine behind customers’ businesses.

    In the days following its first announcement, Helion’s launch has been covered by numerous publications, from The New York Times to Geekwire to TheStreet, showing that HP's big bet on the cloud has captured the attention of both the media and the techosphere.   

    Here’s to seeing HP—and Helion—set the world on fire. 

    Eden White is an associate consultant at Interbrand. 

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  • Posted by: Katie Conneally on Tuesday, May 6 2014 03:37 PM | Comments (0)

    Foursquare Swarm logo

    A few weeks ago in Little Rock, AR, I used the Foursquare app on my phone to look up nearby restaurants for dinner, and found a local fish spot that lived up to its 8.3/10 rating. The next weekend I was in Charleston, SC, and checked-in at a restaurant that one of my foodie friends, whose opinion I trust, had checked-in at previously. I knew I had made the right choice in toughing out the hour-long wait.

    But it seems that I’m in the minority of Foursquare users, who both check-in to a location regularly, and use the discovery features to find new places to go. That’s why Foursquare announced this week that they’re splitting their app into two—one called Swarm that will just allow users to check-in to their location, and another that will keep the name Foursquare, but will function as a way to find crowdsourced recommendations nearby, similar to Yelp.

    The logic, apparently, is that having to check-in is a barrier for potential users who don’t want to share their location, but might otherwise use and benefit from local search features and tips on restaurants, bars, and entertainment.

    From a business perspective, this no doubt made sense to the Foursquare team (and investors) as a big step towards monetization and expansion for a startup that’s been struggling to do both. But from a brand perspective, there’s a risk the change in names and split experiences will alienate their core users who have spent the last five years building the mountain of data that makes this all possible.

    Let’s start with Swarm. While it was a nice touch to pull the name from the existing Foursquare vocabulary  (“a place where a lot of people are checked in”), many people use Foursquare today for the opposite reason—because it connects them to curated network of like-minded friends that's often much, much smaller than their network on Facebook. A name that emphasizes the wider reach over the smaller circle may make current users wary of Foursquare’s intentions, and misses the point—as the internet continues to grow, there's value in being able to carve out your own niche.

    There’s also the question of name equity. The Foursquare name has significant equity in the location-sharing space, and is most commonly associated with check-ins—even beating social Goliath Facebook at the check-ins space. Using the name for an app that will serve a completely different purpose, when its existing connotations might actually deter new users, doesn’t make much sense. Instead, going the opposite route and keeping Foursquare as the name for the check-in app would help maintain consistency during the change, and require less investment to rebrand.

    Overall, splitting the brand experience in two to gain a new mainstream audience that pushes away current users feels shortsighted. Why not reimagine the experience for current users, and re-envision them as part of the team, building the data infrastructure that powers local search? There’s certainly power in making people feel useful. Or, why not turn Foursquare into an ingredient brand, with myriad possibilities for partnership? What starts as social doesn’t always have to stay the course.

    Getting this unbundling right and growing both apps into sustainable, unique offerings will take significant investment, especially with apps like Yelp standing strongly in the space. This could prove to be too much, and like Netflix and Qwikster, they may ultimately decide that they’re better together. Either way, we’re curious to see how this will affect the Foursquare brand in the critical months ahead.

    For now, I’ll still be checking in, but know that the day will come soon when I’ll be more inclined to check out.

    Katie Conneally is a Verbal Identity Consultant at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Michael Mitchell on Tuesday, March 18 2014 04:22 PM | Comments (0)
    The Art of Storutelling

    We know that words matter. They have an incredible power to move people, and when used thoughtfully—even poetically—they can change the way people experience brands.

    For example, there’s something poetic about Volkswagen’s 2013 campaign encouraging us not to text and drive. In one ad, a nearly blank page simply says, “See you n…” —cleverly incorporating auto-correct to anticipate the last word as either “now” or “never.” It’s a powerful use of four words to tell a story, affect behavior and solve a problem.

    If design thinking is how brands can use design to solve problems, perhaps poetic thinking is how brands can use language to solve problems.

    The suggestion is not that brands begin speaking in iambic pentameter. But, if we craft a brand's language to be as poetic as its design is artful, we can have a significant impact. As our new article on the art of effective storytelling notes, the key is “finding that balance between having a living and breathing expression while still remaining true to the core what, how and why of a brand.”

    Artful language helped HSBC claim the second highest rank of any financial services brand on Interbrand’s latest Best Global Brands report. Delivering on their positioning as “the world’s local bank,” their iconic advertisements featuring a single word seen from multiple perspectives was a sublimely poetic way for a bank to raise its brand value by conveying understanding, empathy and humanity.

    In an equally poignant mix of design and poetic thinking, an Asian non-profit, Samaritans of Singapore, promoted their crises-prevention services by crafting phrases that convey different messages from different angles. These heartfelt ads show that depression can hide in plain sight, reading, “I feel fantastic” when right-side up, and “I’m falling apart” when upside down.

    The thoughtful use of language is essential to helping brands express an emotionally engaging, strategically consistent and differentiated point of view. When combined correctly, an inventive piece of design coupled with a poetic turn of phrase can move hearts—and business margins—in powerful, world-changing ways.

    For more on crafting language and story to elevate brand communications, download our new article on “The Art of Storytelling.”

    Michael Mitchell is a Senior Consultant, Verbal Identity, at Interbrand Singapore.

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